Refugees are deprived of their rights at Latvia's external EU border

On August 10, 2021, Latvia declared a state of emergency in four border regions with Belarus due to increasing numbers of refugees. As a result of this decree, the military will be sent to the border, the right of asylum in these areas will be suspended, and consequently most of the refugees will be forcibly pushed back to Belarus. In addition Press and NGOs access to those regions is prohibited, which prevents independent monitoring of the situation and humanitarian assistance, as well as access to due process. Amnesty International has been monitoring the situation at the border for over a year now, interviewing border officials and refugees, and has published the results in its report here published. 

In the summer of 2021, the Latvian government declared the border regions an exceptional area. The Latvian government legitimized this action with the fact that refugees from Belarus against Latvia instrumentalized would be. The declaration of a State of emergency allows a state to restrict certain human rights in extreme circumstances when there is a threat to the life of the nation. Although the numbers of people attempting to cross the border into Latvia have decreased massively, to vanishingly small, the Latvian government has continued to extend its measures. They are currently still in effect, although in August just 35 official Asylum applications in Latvia have been placed. That this number is not a âthreat to the life of the nationâ is obvious.

Protection seekers stuck 

The statements of the interviewees show that Latvia massively violates human rights at its borders and that people are sometimes stuck in the border area for months. There, the Belarusian and Latvian border guards alternately force them back and forth across the border in both directions. One refugee reports that he has been stuck in the border region for over 3 months and has been pushed across the border more than 150 times in total, with a maximum of up to eight pushbacks in a single day. A typical horror trip in the limbo of the border region looks like this: The asylum seekers try to cross the green border through the forest to Latvian territory to apply for asylum. On Latvian territory they are picked up by border guards and taken to unregistered tent camps somewhere in the forest, far away from civil society, press and NGOs. Here, border guards in official uniforms are replaced by so-called commandos. Men, with rapid-fire weapons, hooded faces, and dressed entirely in black, without any identifying marks as belonging to any official authority. These commandos harass, beat and abuse the detainees. They use batons and stun guns, – sometimes even on their genitals. Their cell phones and valuables are taken from them. The shelter seekers have to sleep overnight in a tent in the middle of the forest, sometimes outdoors, at up to -20 degrees. The commandos also take away their lighters, the only way to make a fire to warm themselves against the cold temperatures and to protect themselves against wolves and bears. Often in the early morning hours, the refugees are bussed back to the border with Belarus and have to walk the rest of the way back through the forest. 

In Belarus

In Belarusian territory, the people are forced by the border guards at gunpoint to make their way back through the forest towards Latvia. Thus, the fugitives are pushed back and forth between the two countries for weeks and months. In the tent camps, somewhere in the forest, there are no sanitary facilities. The forest in the border areas is full of cameras, which almost always allows border guards to catch the fugitives before they make it further into the country. In this limbo, between the borders, people are defencelessly exposed to violence and cold, without any access to an asylum procedure, which they would be entitled to under EU law and the Geneva Refugee Convention.

Compulsion to return 

In order to escape this hell, the people on the run are coerced into signing so-called return contracts, in order to be able to be deported to their countries of origin. In Latvia, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) these repatriations. In at least two documented cases, refugees have made IOM officials aware that they are not doing so voluntarily and do not want to return to their home countries, but they have been ignored. Amnesty International is searching for over 30 people who are missing. 

Latvia violates EU law 

The Latvian government claimed against the EU Committee The European Union's Federal Minister for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has demanded that all people who are apprehended by border guards in the border areas be taken to refugee shelters where they can apply for asylum. However, the Amnesty report shows that this is rarely the case. The Situations on the Polish-Belarusian border and on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border are similar. In June 2022 decided the Court of Justice of the European Union that the Lithuanian Asylum and Migration Law, which restricts the ability of people to apply for asylum during the state of emergency and provides for the automatic detention of asylum seekers, is not compatible with EU law. However, nothing has changed in practice. 

Request: Cases of "drift-backs" in the Aegean Sea

I have put a question to the Commission about the documented „drift-backs“ in the Aegean Sea. To my question whether the Commission finally admits these human rights violations at the Greek border I receive once again no answer. The Commission remains vague in its statements and only points out that it has asked the Greek authorities to investigate all allegations. However, it is self-explanatory that this does not yield much when an authority that commits human rights violations itself is supposed to investigate its own misconduct. Now that this is the case, the Commission, as guardian of the treaties, should initiate infringement proceedings against Greece to clarify the widely documented violations of the rule of law and human rights. After all, our borders are only protected if our fundamental rights are also protected at them.

You can find the request with answers in several languages here.

My request

The research agency "Forensic Architecture" recently reported that the Greek Coast Guard, partly with the assistance of Frontex, has abandoned refugees on life rafts in 1,018 cases so that they would drift back from Greek waters to the Turkish coast, also known as "drift-back." Although there is growing evidence of this practice, the Commission's response to it so far has been very muted and ambiguous, giving the impression that it wants to cover up for the Greek state agencies instead of acting as a guardian of the treaties.

  • Does the Commission intend to take joint action with Frontex with regard to the above cases, or does it expect the Greek Transparency Authority to make these incidents the subject of an independent investigation?
  • In dealing with the systematic human rights violations alleged against the Greek Government, does the Commission take account of the conflict of interest in view of the party affiliation of Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, who is responsible in the College of Commissioners for promoting our European way of life?
  • Is the Commission finally acknowledging the frequent and serious human rights violations at Greece's borders, following the publication of a long list of evidence by a wide range of established actors?

The reply of Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 13.10.2022

  1. The responsibility for investigating alleged refoulements lies with the national authorities. In this context, the Greek authorities informed the Commission about measures taken to ensure the respect of fundamental rights. These include internal control procedures, investigations by independent authorities and the possibility for prosecutors to investigate allegations*. The Commission will continue to work with the Greek authorities to monitor progress made.
  2. Vice President Schinas has no conflict of interest. According to the Code of Conduct for Commission members, a conflict of interest exists when a personal interest may affect the independent performance of a Commission member's duties. Personal interests include, but are not limited to, potential
    Benefits or advantages for the members themselves, their (spouses) partners or immediate family members. A conflict of interest does not exist if a commission member is affected merely as part of the general public or a broad section of the population. Consequently, affiliation with a political party as well as political convictions do not create a conflict of interest.
  3. Member States have an obligation under EU law to prevent and deter unauthorized crossing of the EU's external borders in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, including the right to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement. Respect for fundamental rights is a non-negotiable part of the implementation of integrated European border management, and the Commission has repeatedly called on the relevant national authorities to thoroughly investigate allegations and bring those responsible to justice where appropriate.

*According to the new proposals, the Greek authorities will continue to work on a three-tier structure, relying on: a) internal control procedures to investigate crimes related to Greek Police or Greek Coast Guard operations and to
to be prosecuted, b) investigations by independent authorities such as the Greek Ombudsman and the National Transparency Authority, and c) the ability of prosecutors to investigate allegations following an appropriate complaint or press and NGO reports. Most recently, the
Greek authorities to adopt legislation on June 30, 2022, following discussions between Commissioner Johansson and relevant ministers in Greece, including the establishment of a Fundamental Rights Commissioner and a specific Fundamental Rights Monitoring Committee within the Ministry of Migration and Asylum. The Fundamental Rights Officer and the Committee will deal with complaints related to both border operations and asylum procedures.

Green delegation trip to the Greek border

From September 19 to 21, I was part of a delegation from my group in the European Parliament, together with MEPs Tineke Strik from the Netherlands, Saskia Bricmont from Belgium and Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield traveled from France to Greece. The aim of the trip is to get a picture of the current situation of refugees in Greece – but also the situation of the rule of law and freedom of the press in general. The Greek government has had leading opposition politicians and journalists monitored by spyware and, according to Reporters Without Borders, the country is lagging behind in terms of press freedom, currently ranked 108 out of 180 countries – Only Russia and Belarus perform worse in Europe. 

RIC Fylakio – Conditions in the camps.

The focus of our trip was a visit to the Evros, the border river to Turkey. Here again and again particularly serious human rights violations – violent and systematic pushbacks – documented. In addition, we have also addressed issues related to biometric mass surveillance of protection seekers in so-called RIC (Reception and Identification Center). We visited the RIC in Fylakio, where people are actually allowed to be locked up for a maximum of 25 days. In practice, even children are locked up there for months and have no access to education or medical care. The camp itself is small, but full of locked doors and barbed wire, with no shade or color. People live in container houses with blocks for families, men and unaccompanied minors. The NGOs on the ground are so intimidated by the government that they are afraid to talk to us MPs for fear of losing access to the camp or funds if they do.

Dead on the Evros 

We were denied access to the border region, even though we are MEPs and I am responsible for external borders in Parliament. Unfortunately, the Greek authorities are concretely preventing me from doing my work as an MEP. We were standing in front of two containers, in which lay the bodies of 20 people found on the Evros River. This year alone, the bodies of 51 people have been found in the Greek border region. We talked to Dr. Pavlidis; he takes care of these cases on a voluntary basis, trying to create certainty for the relatives whether their missing sons, daughters or parents are still alive. Often the bodies are found only after months – also because NGOs are denied access to the border region.

Meeting with Frontex

All activities of the agency are based on the self-declared needs of the national authorities and are under that supervision. The Greek authorities try to keep Frontex away from their illegal activities and pushbacks, because Frontex should actually report them – which they have demonstrably not done in many cases. The border guards and supervisors we spoke with claim to report all activities, but have never witnessed any pushback. When we asked what they actually do all day, we did not receive a comprehensible answer.

Meeting with Notis Mitarachi 

On Tuesday we had a meeting with the Greek Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi, who has repeatedly accused us MPs and also renowned international media of spreading fake news and Turkish propaganda when we talked about the obvious pushbacks, violence and disappearances at sea. The Greek government is not only building fences on the border, but also a wall of lies. In his speech, Mitarachi spoke of much better reception conditions and a minimal backlog of asylum procedures in the country, but did not address the issues raised by credible actors allegations of pushbacks raised and other human rights violations. I have confronted Mr. Mitarachi with several recent cases, including the Cases of people stranded on an island on the river Evros. But Mr. Mitarachi simply claimed that all these cases were lies and fabrications. 

Freedom of the press in Greece 

We met journalists who were involved in the coverage of the Predator case involved where Greece illegally wiretapped journalists and opposition politicians. Their accounts painted a picture of intimidation, national media that have become the government's mouthpiece, and a severe lack of resources for investigative journalism.


After the end of the green mission, I traveled to Lesvos to see the situation in the Mavrouvoni camp, which was built after the fire in Moria and was intended as a short-term emergency solution. The situation in the camp is still not good, but it is also much better than a year ago due to the many NGOs and international pressure. How the situation was a year ago, I have written down here. Currently, a new camp is being built, which is even more remote than Mavrouvoni and should be ready next spring. It is feared that people will be locked up there and NGOs will not have access.

General situation in Greece 

On Tuesday, we met with experts in Athens who deal with the dangerous effects of biometric mass surveillance, corruption in the allocation of public funds, attacks on press freedom and the wiretapping scandal. The many discussions left the picture of a state where basic democratic standards and human rights are no longer respected. The EU, especially the Commission, must act quickly and build pressure to counter further deterioration. Civil society, independent journalists and refugees need active support to resist the attacks by the state and the government. 

Greek government lies

My visit to the Evros and Athens has shown me once again that the Greek government systematically lies in order to evade its responsibility and does not shy away from mistreating people on the run, intimidating NGOs and attacking and spying on journalists. But there is also an intact civil society that needs our support now to continue fighting for the rights of those seeking protection and for the preservation of democracy and the rule of law. 

Question: Rejections despite interim measures of the ECtHR

I have submitted a question to the Commission on pushbacks at the border between Greece and Turkey. The Commission expresses shock and concern about the reports and replies that it will review the current control mechanisms to safeguard fundamental rights.

You can find the request with answers in several languages here.

My request

As from the Greek Refugee Council reported, 94 Syrians:including minors with health conditions and young mothers with their infants, were recently stranded on an islet off the coast of the Greek regional district of Evros and were forced to stay there for several days without water and food. Although the European Court of Human Rights took interim measures on May 24, 2022, to ensure that these people receive immediate humanitarian and medical assistance and that the reception and identification procedures provided for by law are applied to them, they were returned to Turkey against their will last weekend, according to reports from their family members in Turkey.

  • In the Commission's view, are the Greek actions described above compatible with EU law, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights?
  • What steps will the Commission take to investigate the possible expulsion of 94 Syrians?
  • Does it have information about other illegal refoulements by Greece or about the number of alleged illegal practices at the Greek border?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 08/08/2022

The Commission is deeply concerned by all reports and allegations of refoulement and ill-treatment. Any form of violence or refoulement is unlawful and must be investigated by the national authorities responsible for establishing the facts and taking follow-up action. The Commission is aware of the increasing migration flows at the land border with Turkey in recent months and the threat of smugglers who abandon migrants on small islands in the Evros River.

In accordance with the Regulation with common provisions Member States must establish effective mechanisms to comply with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (basic requirements). The Commission is currently assessing the mechanisms put in place in the context of the Greek programs under the Home Affairs Funds, including the independent mechanism for monitoring and preventing refoulement. If the Commission considers that an essential condition is not met, the expenditure incurred under the measures concerned may be included in the payment claims, but reimbursement will only be made once the Commission has informed the Member State concerned that the essential condition has been met.

The Commission examines all relevant information at its disposal and cooperates with the Greek authorities responsible for the control mechanisms and the concrete investigation of allegations. The Commission also works within the framework of the Task Force âMigration Managementâ is working with Greece and providing feedback in this area in order to increase the effectiveness of the monitoring and follow-up modalities put in place by the Greek authorities to fully implement the obligations under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and EU law, including the principle of non-refoulement.

Question: EU funding for closed migration centers

The EU funds several closed migration centers with detention-like conditions in Greece. Despite evidence from a Greek court and several non-governmental organizations, the Commission denies that detention-like conditions exist and further claims that the rights of those seeking protection are not being violated.

You can find the request with answers in several languages here.

My request

The EU funds several closed migration centers in Greece. These include the closed controlled-access center on Samos, which opened in September 2021 and received funding of EUR 43 million under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). According to rulings by a Greek court and evidence from various non-governmental organizations, many asylum seekers face de facto detention and extensive surveillance at this center.

  • Does the Commission consider the funding of this closed center to be compatible with the specific provisions governing the detention of asylum seekers in international and European asylum law (e.g. the Reception Conditions Directive and the Dublin III Regulation)?
  • Could the Commission provide a detailed list of all AMIF expenditures for the Samos camp since September 2021, broken down by category of expenditure (in particular monitoring, including procedures and guards)?
  • Is there a concrete overview of funding under AMIF for comparable centers in the Georgian islands, including their capacity and total number of staff per camp, and how does the Commission monitor this expenditure?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 08/09/2022

The Commission has allocated â¬276 million from the Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) for the construction of five multi-purpose reception and identification centers on the islands of Samos, Kos, Leros, Chios and Lesvos. These centers include different areas, including reception and identification structures for new arrivals, accommodation facilities, safe areas for unaccompanied children and adolescents, recreational areas and deportation zones. As demonstrated by the Return Directive only the deportation zones are closed areas. The full respect of the EU right of asylum and return is a condition for the centers to be supported with EU funds.

The tender documents published by the Greek authorities for the construction of the centers are available online. They refer to the total cost of the construction works and not to the cost per center. The contracts containing information on the running costs of the new center on Samos come from the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum and therefore the Commission does not have the requested information. The Honourable Members are invited to contact the competent authorities for further information. Services of the Ministry to turn.

The Commission has deployed staff to the islands and is closely monitoring the work of the new centers to ensure compliance with applicable EU law. This is done through mandatory reporting by the beneficiaries of EU funds and on-site visits by Commission staff. For the construction of the new multipurpose reception and identification centers, an additional monitoring framework has been put in place, including regular financial controls by an external audit firm during the project.

My question on EU funding for the Egyptian Coast Guard

The commission explained here how it will fund the Egyptian coast guard with â'¬80 million over the next two years to drag people back into the country, even though the human rights situation is catastrophic. The Commission modestly refers to this as "preventing irregular migration by sea".

You can find the request with answers in several languages here.

My request

Commissioner Várhelyi has recently confirmedthat the Commission has pledged long-term and short-term financial support to Egypt amounting to almost EUR 300 million. According to News reports 80 million of the funding for the Egyptian Coast Guard is earmarked for “border protection†and for preventing Egyptians from fleeing. The Parliament has repeatedly expressed its concern about the disastrous human rights situation in Egypt.nd since January 2021, 3,500 Egyptians have fled the country by boat to Italywhich makes them the second largest group of people arriving there from Mediterranean countries.

  • Can the Commission provide an overview of all equipment or services supplied to the Egyptian authorities and the Coast Guard, in particular for border protection, and what is the timetable for future distribution?
  • What indicators will the Commission use to ensure that EU-Egypt migration cooperation is in line with Article 3(5) of the Treaty on European Union, i.e. that human rights are respected and promoted, e.g. by ensuring accountability for possible human rights violations?
  • What human rights impact or risk assessment has been (or will be) carried out on this financial support to ensure that it does not facilitate or be used for human rights abuses?

Answer given by Olivér Várhelyi on behalf of the European Commission on 25.08.2022

The Commission stands ready to assist Egypt in maintaining its capacity to prevent irregular migration by sea and in strengthening the control of its border with Libya and Sudan. This is of particular importance given that irregular entries of Egyptian nationals into the EU (over 90 % to Italy, mainly via Libya) increased sixfold in 2021 (to 9219).

Against this background, the Commission is currently developing, in close coordination with the Egyptian authorities, a measure to support border management (search and rescue, land and sea border surveillance). A total budget of EUR 80 million is foreseen, to be implemented in two phases: EUR 23 million in 2022 and EUR 57 million in 2023. As the measure has not yet been adopted, there is no overview at this stage of the equipment or services that will be provided to the Egyptian authorities in this framework.

The measure will be subject to an ex-ante risk assessment and monitoring measures will be in place throughout its duration to ensure that the measure does not jeopardize compliance with international human rights law and the protection of refugees and migrants.

Question: EU action plan in response to events in Afghanistan

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Commission suspended most of its agreements with the country and largely ceased cooperation with Afghanistan. Since then, in response to the events in Afghanistan, it has established a Action Plan which was leaked to the media. I asked the following questions about it:

You can find the entire request with answers in several languages also here.

My questions

  • Has the action plan already been adopted? If so, will there be reports on the implementation and will the measures be made publicly available?
  • Is the parliament informed about the implementation of the action plan?
  • Will the Commission disaggregate and communicate its commitment to receive 38,000 vulnerable Afghans by Member State and by program (resettlement, humanitarian reception, etc.) and how many Afghans are currently arriving in Europe through both the official evacuation routes and the programs for Afghans at risk?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 17/08/2022

The Action Plans to strengthen comprehensive migration partnerships with priority countries of origin and transit, including the Action Plan adopted in response to the events in Afghanistan, were jointly developed by the Commission and the European External Action Service in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council of June 2021 and subsequently presented to the Member States at the meetings of the Council Working Group on External Asylum and Migration Policy. These action plans are dynamic documents that will evolve over time. They are intended for internal use by the EU and its Member States and should contribute to the development of a common strategic approach to cooperation with partner countries. The objective of this specific action plan is to strengthen the measures to be taken in support of the Afghan people or together with Afghanistan’s neighbors. Afghanistan is in great need of humanitarian aid, and the country’s own resources are limited. EU humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan is already underway and is being provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

The Commission is determined to continue to keep the European Parliament fully informed on all aspects of migration policy, including its actions in Afghanistan and the region. The Commission will continue to inform the Parliament about the evolution of the humanitarian situation on the ground and the adaptation of the EU humanitarian response.

3. The commitments made by the member states regarding Afghans at risk for the period 2021-2022 are as follows to be taken from the appendix. Member States have reported to the Commission that by April 2022, almost 28,700 persons have been admitted for humanitarian reasons, but resettlement has not yet started.

Question: Report of the Greek Transparency Authority

I asked the EU Commission on 25.05.2022 what it thinks about the fact that the Greek authorities immediately take arriving protection seekers into deportation custody and lock them in a prison that they are not allowed to leave. The Commission responds that it is aware of this practice and that it is also legally justifiable if less drastic measures do not work. These „less restrictive measures“ are not applied, however, and would also have to be subject to a case-by-case review – which they currently are not.

The whole question with answers in several languages can also be found at here.

My request

On May 10, 2022, Greece's National Transparency Authority published an investigative report on suspected refoulements, describing, among other things, the process for managing the flow of asylum seekers reaching Greek territory by land or sea.

  • In the light of Article 6 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Articles 8 and 9 of the Reception Conditions Directive, what is the Commission's view of Greece's practice of placing new arrivals in detention pending their transfer to a reception and identification center in the Evros region (p. 23/24)?
  • Taking into account Article 6 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Articles 8 and 9 of the Reception Conditions Directive, what is its view of the practice whereby applicants are kept in the facility for up to 25 days from registration during the reception and identification procedures, but are not allowed to leave the facility because they are in detention (p. 29)?
  • How are statistics collected on "prevention" (p. 56) and how many cases of prevention were recorded by the Greek authorities in 2021? Please provide a breakdown by police directorate (Alexandroúpoli, Orestiada, North Aegean and Dodecanese).

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 3.08.2022

The Commission is aware that persons arriving irregularly across the land border with Turkey at Evros are transferred to the Reception and Identification Center in Fylakio, where they are subject to the Reception and Identification Procedure and undergo a medical examination, registration of personal data, fingerprinting and interview, after which they are directed to follow-up procedures (asylum for persons applying for international protection or repatriation of persons who renounce such an application).

With regard to administrative detention during the reception and identification procedure, Article 8(3) of the Reception Conditions Directive provides that[1] in accordance with Article 6 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union[2] an exhaustive list of grounds on which an applicant may be detained when less coercive measures cannot be effectively applied. Among the grounds for detention listed there is the need to establish or verify the identity or nationality of the person. However, such decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis. The Commission is closely monitoring the situation on the ground and is in dialogue with the Greek authorities. However, it does not collect statistics on 'preventions' and does not have the information requested by the Honourable Member.

Question: Protection for stateless refugees from Ukraine

Together with nine other MEPs from four political groups, I put a question on the application of the Temporary Protection Directive to stateless refugees from Ukraine. You can find the question and the answer in several languages also here.

Our request from 20 May 2022

EU member states are not obliged to extend the granting of temporary protection to the most stateless refugees from Ukraine. The Temporary Protection Directive applies only to stateless persons enjoying international protection (or equivalent status) in Ukraine. Stateless persons who can prove that they have resided permanently in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 and cannot safely return to their country or region of origin are also entitled to protection, but Member States can decide whether to apply the Temporary Protection Directive or to grant adequate protection under national law. Member States may extend protection to other persons, including stateless persons, lawfully residing in Ukraine.

  • How does the Commission intend to ensure that the directive on the granting of temporary protection is implemented in all areas by the Member States in accordance with the principles of non-discrimination and respect for the rights of stateless persons enshrined in international and Union law?
  • Does the Commission intend, firstly, to adopt the operational guidelines for the implementation of the Directive on the granting of temporary protection to amend them so that they also apply to stateless persons residing in Ukraine who do not have documentary evidence of their ties to that country; second, to clarify that equivalent national protection includes protection as a stateless person within the meaning of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; and third, to introduce flexibility in the documentary requirements to allow the inherent difficulties in proving statelessness through documents to take into account?
  • Does the Commission intend to include information on statelessness in the EU’s preparedness and contingency plan for migration?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on August 3, 2022.

The protection of all those who are stateless or at risk of statelessness is a concern of the Commission. The relevant Council Decision of 4 March 2022[1] on the introduction of temporary protection under the Temporary Protection Directive[2] also extends to certain categories of stateless persons who fall within those categories entitled to temporary protection or other appropriate protection under national law. Member States may extend protection to all other stateless persons. Member States had to comply with the minimum standards and rights of the Temporary Protection Directive by 31 December 2002.[3] or on the occasion of accession to the EU into national law. These provisions were activated by the Council decision of March 4, 2022. The Commission has urged Member States in various ways (operational guidelines, own agenda items, missions, etc.) and in many fora (Solidarity Platform, Blueprint, Council Working Groups, etc.) to apply these provisions appropriately to all persons covered by the Directive, including stateless persons, who in particular face specific challenges in terms of evidence and status determination.

2. the operational guidelines of the Commission for the implementation of the Council decision[4]which already contain chapters on evidence and status determination, will be updated to take due account of the situation on the ground and changing needs.

The Commission regularly updates the information collected under the EU Preparedness and Response Plan and adapts it according to developments and data availability. In addition, statelessness was a specific agenda item for the Solidarity Platform established to implement temporary protection.

  • [1] Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/382 of 4 March 2022 establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine within the meaning of Article 5 of Directive 2001/55/EC and introducing temporary protection (OJ L 71, 4.3.2022, p. 1).
  • [2] Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof (OJ L 212, 7.8.2001, p. 12).
  • [3] Article 32 of Directive 2001/55/EC.
  • [4] Communication from the Commission on operational guidelines for the implementation of Council Implementing Decision (EU) 2022/382 of 4 March 2022 establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine within the meaning of Article 5 of Directive 2001/55/EC and introducing temporary protection (OJ C 126I, 21.3.2022, p. 1).

How much EU money has gone to Greece for migration?

Since 2015, the European Union has provided Greece with a total of €3.38 billion to address migration and border challenges. 2.53€ billion has been drawn down by Greece to date. 

The European Union's support to Greece is provided through three pots: the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), the Internal Security Fund (ISF) and the  Emergency Support Instrument (ESI). The largest pot is the AMIF, through which a total of €328.3 billion has been made available. This budget item supports EU member states for the purpose of efficient management of migration and the implementation and strengthening of the Common European Asylum System. The ISF provides money for the management of visas and entry, control of external borders, but also returns, for example through Frontex. Here, Greece has been allocated €320 million. The ESI provides support for emergencies and gives money for humanitarian aid, the share was 668.9€ million. Most of the regular money from AMIF, ISF and ESI goes to the national authorities, that is, to the Greek authorities dealing with migration and asylum, such as the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum. 

In addition to the regular requirements, funds can also be mobilized from AMIF and ISF for other short-term emergency needs ("Emergency Assistance"). In the case of Greece, the Emergency Assistance funds represent the largest sum of all the funds that have been mobilized. 1,54€ billion. Two thirds of all Emergency Assistance funds have gone to international organizations, the last third to the Greek authorities. It is important to note that a total of €2.06 billion has been made available, but Greece has not drawn down all of it.

Political will for good care is lacking

In fact the Greek authorities received 2,53€ billionto cope with the increased number of arrivals in recent years. In this context, it is particularly important to note that 3.38€ billion awarded were made, but a large part of it was not spent. This clearly shows that the funds available are necessary to provide adequate and dignified care for refugees on the Greek islands and on the mainland, but the political will is missingto implement it in this way. 

Basic requirements of the EU Reception Directive are still not being met in Greece, such as the right to education for children. The provision of food is also still problematic and inadequate. Enough money would actually be available to solve the problems in the long term. Even the European Court of Auditors as the EU's own authority, came in its Annual Report 2019 reached similar conclusions, without explicitly naming them as such. There was no explicit misappropriation of funds, but some funds from Emergency Assistance were misappropriated for longer-term projects and structures, although they may only be used flexibly for short-term emergency needs. In addition, the ACA criticized the inefficient use of the funds and thus the Discrepancy between EU targets and actual results – in other words, the lack of political will. Now, the money is not only going to the Greek authorities, but also to international organisations. But even more money to international organisations is not necessarily helpful if the Greek government does not support their work. blocked and criminalized, as is the case especially on the Greek islands. 

If you would like to take a closer look at the money that has been budgeted and paid out, you will find here is an overview from the European Commission. It also presents how much money went to the different international organization as well as to which Greek authorities. 

Looking at the numbers makes one thing very clear again. The state authorities and organizations actually have enough resources to treat people with dignity. But it seems to be politically not desired.